Are you a change agent? Are you dedicated to improving healthcare systems? Then you probably know that in some organizations, top management resists change. This attitude creates obstacles for frontline leaders who want to serve their constituents better. In contrast, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald has a long track record of developing change-focused leadership. When he was CEO of P&G, Chief Executive Magazine twice named the firm as the best company for leaders. Similarly, Hay Group, the global HR consultancy, named P&G #1 in Hay Group’s Best Companies for Leadership Study. Secretary McDonald is now bringing his commitment to leadership excellence to VA, where there is an especially big need for executives to guide their medical centers.

 The bottom line is that health care executives at VA will benefit from the latest leadership and managerial approaches.

On May 4, 2016, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) International Security Program, Secretary McDonald first discussed some of the little known recent achievements of VA (e.g., receiving the J. D. Power highest score for mail order pharmacies for the sixth year in a row). He then launched into works in progress that will bring a “sea of change” to VA culture.

He pointed out that Lean Six Sigma quality training and implementation is bringing positive results at such facilities as the VHA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California. Employees have been following these collaborative principles of improvement, which aim at reducing defective service to an insignificant proportion. Secretary McDonald is broadening and intensifying this methodology that led to Toyota’s success and has already proven its cost and quality value in VA programs.

Secretary McDonald also mentioned the enlistment of one of America’s most acclaimed management gurus: Dr. Noel M. Tichy, Professor of Management and Organizations at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. In the 1980s, GE CEO Jack Welch contracted Dr. Tichy to redo GE’s management training and thus help transform the company.

In one of Tichy’s books that McDonald often cites, the author talks about the dynamics of transforming an organization: “Leaders energize people through transitions. Change unleashes a lot of mixed emotions: fear, hope, anxiety, uncertainty, elation, sadness, excitement, and so forth. The key for leaders is to ultimately deal with emotional energy in a positive way while recognizing the reality of the struggle. They do more than give inspiring speeches and pep talks. They help people to see the opportunities that lie before them and create an environment that supports fulfillment of the group’s mission. The most critical part is leading people through transitions laden with deeply mixed emotions.  Leaders channel these mixed emotions into a positive force.”[1]

If that kind of challenge energizes you, then you well might consider Veterans Health Administration (VHA) as the place to use and hone your leadership talents … while you are contributing to the important mission of serving our Nation’s Veterans and their families.  If you see yourself as a change agent, we encourage you to Join Us.

 Here is a prime example: VHA’s Dr. David Shulkin, Top 50 Most Influential Physician Executive

[1] Noel M. Tichy with Eli Cohen, The Leadership Engine: How Winning Companies Build Leaders at Every Level (Harper Collins e-books: 2009), p. 39

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Published on Jun. 23, 2016

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  1. Calvin Ray July 1, 2016 at 12:43 am

    The VA can not be “fixed” by or with whomever they elect or appoint as a leader to change this dysfunctional system. Yes, there is a lot of good being done, but the “ugly” will take years. The reason I say this is because look at the dichotomy. We send our soldiers to war with the best equipment, personnel, pay, etc. but when you return home for care we get the most inferior care, many of the treatments are outdated, physicians underrated, unqualified, and under paid and never enough doctors. It still takes 30 – 60 days, if not more which is usually the case to get an appointment. The greatest country in the free world and we are still can’t get alternative or all natural treatments but you can get all the medication that will kill you eventually and no withdrawal program from opiod prescriptions. I worked for the VA and have first had experience with the firing of veterans that had personal problems without getting this Veteran some help while other management personnel commit gross acts of sexual harassment get promoted and moved to another location without consequences.

  2. liz June 27, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I utilize the VHA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California and I can tell you from first hand experience that after reading, Principals of Improvement, maybe you could refresh Leadership Principals (page 8) annually and require desk clerks and Directors alike to mirror a Veteran patient roll. There needs to be more respect for us Veterans, we are NOT Medicare/Medical recipients We Have Paid the price to have the care we receive. Do Not Dismiss Us like You are a General in our Military, there are many that have never, could never serve; AND now I’m told, go buy an HMO, if I want a Choice Plan. I was spit on during Viet Nam, and now this…..FUBAR!
    I read your, Project Selection Matrix (page 18) :
    Likelihood of Success: 90-95% Veteran’s off Narcotic Medications
    $$ Impact (cost of increased revenue) 100%
    Decrease in Patient Visits: Chronic Pain; PTSD; Psychology and Internal Medicine Clinics
    Employee Satisfaction: Increased 100%
    Veterans Satisfaction: 0% (I haven’t received any surveys in 3 years)

  3. Very interested Executive June 26, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    When will medical center vacancies post again? They keep saying how important it is to fill them but I swear the vacancy announcement are literally impossible to find!!

    • liz June 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      You aren’t in Kansas either. Ever read some of the OIG investigations in other states of the Wait Lists? Poof…even the Medical Doctor from the GI clinic (VHA-Palo Alto, California) that retired had the goods on that list and they dismissed him like the Newspaper at the bottom of a bird cage full of s*@t! He was a good Dr. treated me right.

  4. Donald F Corcoran June 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    why do we have different classes for treatment in our VA?
    we all served the same sure we had vets who had wounds a lot were bad and needed treatment but we also had others who served did a good job but because they did not get wounded or hurt can not get treated like others there should not be a difference a service man or woman should have the same as they once were, but are government in charge who so happens get free medical and pensions for live and they may have been in only one term. nice job maybe we need to be like them do nothings. Run for office.
    The Plains township VA in PA. IS ONE OF THE BEST VA THERE IS THAY DO HAVE SOME DEPARTMEN THE NEED LOOKING INTO AND PEOPLE FIRED FOR NOT DOING THEIR JOB LIKE ALL PLACES WHO HAVE WORK FORCES but we are talking about men and women who served are country to make it free for others now get not even a thank you at times.

  5. LARRY TAYLOR June 24, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    The Tucson VA is OK, except when I find evidence of wrong information. Then they refuse to talk anymore, preferring to cover up for the other person. PhD. wrong and my PC refuses to agree with published info from the experts about my ‘mild’ brain injury.

    Same with nurses who screwed up a catheter removal and caused me to have a bloody pecker. They said that was normal..happens about 50 times a week. Ha, can’t fool a Navy Corpsman. It should never happen even 1x a year, at least that was my experience during my hospital year duty station. You would be called on the carpet and God help you…

    Cover up like these examples tell me more about the credibility of the VA Health Care System than the propaganda pieces they print up in nice shiny color.

  6. Mat June 24, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Your mileage problems are way out of sight. If offered the choice account to see someone locally as an option, make sure of what you’ll be getting. The Tri-care people have not the foggiest idea of who they are recommending or what their qualification are. Check them out yourself. If there a local providers you are aware of then ask to see them. All the ladies are nice to speak to but still are not aware what is locally available for your need’s.
    In California UCLA Medical was my choice for recent surgery, I had previous surgery with the Fee based program the previous year.
    Under the Choice program they were no longer an option. Yes the system is FUBAR, but we must voice our displeasure so they know what’s wrong and how to fix it.
    The Choice program is a like a cheap Band-Aid coming out of the Flames of Phoenix and it’s bad adhesive is apparent.

  7. Robert G. Bauman June 24, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    If the VA wants the Badly Needed Changes required, ONLY Veterans experienced in Combat and the present VA policies need apply. We have been forced to deal with know-it-all College kids who read books on combat issues written by other know-it-all College kids who have absolutely no combat experience or service in ANY Military Program or Organization. These children ARE NOT qualified to be treating Veterans.

    If this is the policy the VA insists on continuing let the Veteran chose his/her own Health Care Facility, preferably closer to their homes. WE will care for our own!

  8. Thomas Barnett June 24, 2016 at 11:19 am

    If the VA is headed in the right direction (sure hope so) please tell me why cant we get things that are very simple fixed? EXAMPLE: I have been going to VA Memphis (Jefferson & Pauline) since 1974 (68 miles from home). My APN Mr. Ellis retired and I’m told the ‘COPPER CLINIC’ is closing. So the VA re-assigned me to West Helena Arkansas (137 miles from home). I can understand restructer, my question was can I be assigned to Jonesboro Arkansas (64 miles from home). Was told by person (at Memphis VA Benefits) yes no problem fill out this form. Did so, and handed it back to him. He looked it over and had me change some info. He said I would get a letter telling me to make an appointment soon. I got a letter from West Helena, telling me to make an appointment within ten days. Called West Helena, Lady was very nice on phone, told her what was going on. She agreed it was wrong, and told me to call Jonesboro and ask to be changed to their location. Called the woman said I would have to get Memphis to change me…… HELP1111 HELP1111 HELP1111

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